July 28, 2016
By Marina Albu
Art on the edge – An embrace of Outgoingness, Seriousness and Amusement, Killer Kitsch and Dilettantism
A month ago I nostalgically reminisced over the evenings of vocal and instrumental trials from the Dilletant Gathering that took place in a friend’s living room and that ultimately turned into a studio for playing, for jam sessions and amateur recordings that aspired to be professional, a meeting place for testing bravery and creativity, seasoned with beers and sometimes even barbecues in the back yard with good vibes all around. And, as I was reminiscing, I decided to try and listen to this past, so I wrote one of the most faithful members of these gatherings, Jean-Lorin Sterian. I can’t even remember how we got from my request to do a recording to his proposal for a possible article: dilettantism. I liked the idea and besides, I like a good challenge so here it goes. This is the article.
I was thinking, since I’ve recently watched two extremely funny videos and, based on the (viewer’s) state, the meaning or lack there of, the shock or calm, made by Jean-Lorin Sterian and The Sanitary Group, of which he was a part of for a short period of his more or less rosy life, so I chose him as my subject. And seeing how, in the meantime, I got closely acquainted with a sublime, forever smiling face, who also made bizarre videos and would appear to be JLS’ anima if he were the animus, I decided to bring them together in a Vitruvian unity. She is Cosmina. Cosmina Morfolina. Aka Cosmina Moroșan, in her I.D.
“He was a pioneer on the Mircea ship on a Thursday, after which he failed as lifestyle journalist. He did some playback with the Sanitary group, he painted a school in Morocco, he did sky-diving only once. He’s been living since forever near Cișmigiu park, even though he was born in Constanța. He wrote some books (Lorgean, about Starshitting), texts for some comic books, theater plays in which he also started (Starshitting). He’s preparing a feature-length movie (The Starshitting Show). In 2008 he transformed his house into a theater (lorgean theater) and has been living dramatically ever since. At the last edition of the Venice Biennial he left his worn out socks in every country’s pavilion. He bought a bass guitar that he doesn’t know how to play yet, typical for everything he’s ever done in his life. When in Romania, he is the organizer of an apartment festival, HomeFest.”
“She has to get her PhD in letters, UBB, in a year. In the meantime she’d like to pursue her album Doktorate from Morfolina.”
What made you pursue dilettante singing?
C.M.: A structure that wishes to express itself in an energetic kind of way, yet without becoming violent :), yet remaining passive:), meaning non-intrusive, detached… (at least a little bit) unaffected. Too fragile for a hard sport, so I’m trying out minimal street dance, it looks like my bones are handling it well. So – as an extension to that emotional frame, perhaps, came my openness to hip-hop beats, rap – I give myself a boost in order to live a joyful life. Or maybe it was that Buddy Peace mix that really got to me, delivered by my long-ago friend? After that, I listened to (not just the hits of) the likes of Rakim to Beastie Boys thanks to that same guy during dozens of audition-parties in two… I also find hip-hop to be a very sensorial channel, it is incredibly rich in its technique and it allows you to say (let go of) certain things or to just generally have a good time:).
J.L.S.: I started singing as a follow-up to a contemporary art project, Inertia for all. During the rehearsal months, we started to play with sounds made by various objects, then we brought some old instruments and we started playing them. We used them at the premiere, and on our second show we performed (and sang) with or eyes closed. During 2004-2006 we had a band that promoted playback singing, The Sanitary Group. We dropped an album, Playback Superstar, for which we composed a lot of the songs. During concerts we would lip-sync to songs by other artists, such as the infamous Gabriel Dorobanțu (Poala popii or Să nu vii iar să mă cauți)
Would you say you do it more for yourselves or for others?
C.M.: I was ecstatic to hear myself on the speakers when I was 7-8 years old, and for who? (I might be stuck in the mirror stage, perhaps I could use some Lacan to get clean:)) ) My texts are clearly infused with everyday experiences and in a very subtle way I shoot arrows to my peeps:) and, at the same time, in a semi-conscious way I build this character as a defense against the tough bits, and so I sometimes work on texts, videos.
J.L.S: For me, I was always drawn to music, I would have done anything to sing. Unfortunately, I have a third rate voice because I would have loved to be the lead singer in an electro-rock band. Actually, I could easily write the melodic line for any band, but I had to hum it to someone more talented. At 17 I imprinted a proto-manele song.
How important is the message?
C.M.: I think I summed that up in the previous answer, but I will highlight the fact that those proto-stories compulsively hang on to the idea of a jouissance d’etre en vie, as someone told me:)
J.L.S.: Don’t do anything, don’t believe anything, don’t forgive anything, don’t leave anything behind! Currant jam! Please carefully analyse these lyrics!
C.M.: Ahh, it’s an improvisation salad, consciously owning up to it (we have a veeery vague script at the beginning). I find it interesting to learn how to use the editing software / acquiring the editing skills. I had to constantly tune myself these last few months! At the same time, I was blown away by the images of some chicks, you can visit my wall, it’s full of them. Just saying: <3 4 Jungle Pussy, biiig up.
What is the image you want to build for your character?
C.M.: No different from exactly permeating with the way I function so the result is a geek-trashy character, I suppose. I like to read a lot:), there may be connections to this area as well. There are also 26 years of affective living:), with its (afferent) crazes for the most colorful and, perhaps, incoherent intensities.
J.L.S.: In my clip I am using images from a contemporary dance residency where I proposed that everyone present do a video presentation where they say something essential about them. We had three hours. As we were editing I realized it was a very good choice to use the fragments from that presentation. The music itself is the result of a jam-session, a product of chance but, at the same time, it is the result of something that was inside us at that moment and surfaced by interacting with everyone there. The lyrics, even though absurd and improvised, offered me a connection to the black box cage in which the character makes absurd gestures while trying to present an image of himself for others to see.
What do your friends think about what you do? What about your parents?
C.M.: I think they enjoyed it, they told me to keep at it. I’ll probably try some featurings with some of them. My mom is the only person who saw and got scared that I might unleash the biggest scandal in our family’s history:). My dad is a priest, they’re not very conservative, but there’s a chance I might offend people from around there – hence the clips can only be viewed with a google account, it’s my way of a more or less elegant censoring, so I can, let’s say, protect them.
J.L.S.: I played with Dilletant Gathering from 2010 up to late 2014. During those years I bought all of my friends and girlfriends to Edi Gabia’s house, where we used to play. When I first touched a bass guitar I thought I was gonna die of happiness, even if I didn’t know which hand holds the griff. I remember how excited I was whenever I would attend these meetings that took place quite often. I felt incredibly alive to play surrounded by all of my friends. Then suddenly, Edi became a professional drummer and during our jam sessions real musicians started showing up, and I never became one.
My folks had a blast with the Sanitary Group project. I have no idea what dad thinks of Currant Jam.
If you would write a text for a song for this particular moment, what would it say?
C.M.: On 104 tribal/ I am confessing to Marina/ in fact i’m kinda happy/ my bboy is never late :))
J.L.S.: I have a song in mind called “Good Evening, Budapest!”. I have a folder with about 15 song lyrics, with music and everything. I keep waiting for people to start working at an album. I just wait and do nothing. I’d like to make a cover album with 90s foreign euro-dance songs, like I did with Jazzadez.
And what do yo think makes you say things to people. Is it the need to share with other the things that you got into, or that you might have seen a new side to things and that makes a difference? Or are you bothered by the things around you and you are in fact pointing fingers? Or is it your loneliness, your need to communicate?
C.M.: I can have a good relationship with loneliness, for example – if I discover an area I want to explore, like this amateurish-poetic rap thing :). Or others. There is also the process of learning within your given space and expanding it. Everything (for) expanding the cosmos:) — this might be a quote from somewhere. But yeah, I’m sometimes a little afraid of the adhd, pretentious/ elitist hysteria, so I end up in a stagnant isolation. But such a representation can also help with the most positive multi-polarity/ believing in life.
What is art to you? Do you feel like you are part of the art with what you do?
J.L.S.: I take photographs of glass shards, coffee stains, clothes lying on the floor after sex, everything that ends up on the floor after any deed. I leave items of clothing in places with sentimental value. I keep all the packages from all the meds I took in recent years knowing that at some point I will turn them into something that should express the anguish of taking the meds. I can tell if this is art or not when I find out about similar initiatives.
C.M.: Documenting. I don’t take myself too seriously, only when it comes to health issues do I start to attribute narrative depth to moments:). So I feel very embarrassed to talk about art, maybe it’s because I see us as so fragile and miraculous that, even when we’re only talking about a laid back, sweet kind of meeting, filled with love and semi-complex discussions:)) – it’s more than enough:).
I think that dilettantism is beautiful, free, there are no constrains, it helps developing your soul or psyche, call it what you will, and brings joy to those who practice it and, sometimes, to those around them as well.
Professionalism seems to be doing the opposite, for those who practice it, it can be agonizing, though this does not apply to everyone, but for the viewers – it’s a delight. I sometimes find it similar to slavery, this professionalism. When the practitioner does not work with an open heart, when he is often forcibly led by a teacher or an entrepreneur. Of course, this isn’t always the case. A lot of people aim for something big, a lot of people are hardened or passionate or immersed in something they want to take to the next level. A lot have goals that are more or less difficult to achieve, and some make it to where they dream to be. Ambition or intense desire, or a combination of both, or maybe something else too. Others feel full and do not need something higher, farther, or more.
There are many ways to interact with ourselves, our bodies, the abilities we already have or we want to learn. There are many ways to make art and many ways to sing. Lorin and Cosmina are certainly special.
Well, what else can I say, playing should be a part of everyone’s life, in the form that each of us particularly desires. And if something doesn’t sound as angelic or sublime, then let’s at least enjoy the state of the person playing, and try to make that state as our own.
All the best, with love!
Videos and songs by Cosmina Morfolina:
and Jean-Lorin Sterian:
And JLS’ blog – all that matters in life is the surface of things
Cosmina: My blog🙂 (lame, text only, a recycle bin where I keep returning /adding to)
The photos are from the artists’ archives.